"We did not give an OK to the military operations around the hospital, in similar fashion to the fact that … we don't give OKs to their own tactical operations," said NSC Spokesman John Kirby. "These are Israeli military operations that they plan and they execute … in accordance with their own established procedures that the U.S. is not … involved in."
During an interview with reporters, the NSC spokesman confirmed information from U.S. intelligence that Hamas fighters are using tunnels beneath Gaza hospitals – including Al-Shifa – to hide their military operations, store weapons, prepare against Israeli military operations and hold hostages. Kirby emphasized that using hospitals for military purposes constitutes a war crime.
However, he refuted the claims of any connection between his confirmation of intelligence regarding Hamas using Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza as a control center and the timing of the Israeli military.
"My delivery of some downgraded information yesterday, that, the timing of that really came after work by the intelligence community to prepare that information for downgrade. It has nothing to do with any operational timing or any decision-making by the IDF."
International humanitarian law (IHL) protects civilians as well as non-belligerent entities like medical facilities and staff in times of war. In short, it aims to reduce the casualties of war. However, this protection is not unconditional.
International Committee of the Red Cross Chief Legal Officer Cordula Droege explained in a video that civilian objects, like hospitals, may lose their protected status if they are used for activities harmful to the enemy. If a hospital loses its protected status, an attack might be allowed, but the attacking party must give a warning before launching the strike.
The purpose of the warning is to give those misusing the hospital a chance to stop harmful activities or, if they don't stop, to allow the safe evacuation of patients and medical staff. However, Droege noted that this may not always be possible in war. She also reiterated that a warning does not grant a free license to attack.
All strikes are subject to the "principle of proportionality," requiring the attacker to ensure that the expected harm to civilians is not excessive compared to the anticipated military advantage. Additionally, all parties involved must take precautions to minimize harm to civilians, which clearly did not happen.
Meanwhile, the IDF claimed that they had been warning for weeks and notifying authorities that all military activities within the hospital must cease within 12 hours. During a Nov. 13 press call from San Francisco, however, Kirby did not criticize Israel's actions – but instead blasted Hamas for turning the Al-Shifa Hospital into an underground operations center. (Related: THOU SHALT NOT CRITICIZE ISAREL: Social media giants now CENSORING CONTENT that supports people of Gaza and opposes indiscriminate bombings by Israel.)
"Let's not forget what Hamas is doing. It is a violation of the law of war to headquarter yourself in a hospital," Kirby said the day after accusing the terror group of using Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.
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